Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.
A few months back, Falcom announced the latest installment of the critically acclaimed Ys series. Subtitled “The Oath in Felghana,” it would feature full implementation of the Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim engine, among other enhancements. Fans of the series immediately recognized the name, Felghana, as the name of Dogi’s homeland from the original game Ys III: Wanderers From Ys. Perhaps Oath would be a sequel, or a side story, of the original game?
In my time, I’ve wandered everywhere.
Around the world, hope would always be there.
To our surprise, Adol Christin has wandered back into our living rooms with a familiar tale: The Oath in Felghana is a full-fledged remake of Wanderers From Ys. And, when I say “full-fledged,” I really mean it. From the storyline, sound, gameplay and graphics, every aspect of the original game has been completely enhanced. The result is an experience far more ambitious than Wanderers From Ys, the most commonly criticized installment of the series, would have ever dreamed of becoming.
In terms of storyline, Wanderers From Ys was relatively simple and straight-forward. After the complete liberation of Esteria and Ys (as observed in Ys Books I and II), Adol and Dogi decide to visit the Town of Redmont, Dogi’s hometown. Upon their arrival, they realize that, gasp, the land has been overrun by monsters. The two heroes meet up with Elena Stoddart, a childhood friend, who eagerly explains the recent events. To further complicate the situation, the local mayor has been kidnapped, and Elena’s brother, Chester Stoddart, has abandoned the town. Since becoming knighted in the service of King McGuire and Valestine Castle, his demeanor has changed, and the general public suspects that he’s become involved in something sinister. And, naturally, what could be more sinister than the resurrection of an ancient god of destruction? Thankfully, The Oath in Felghana completely expands upon this old storyline, fleshing out each of the classic characters, adding new ones, and seamlessly weaving each into the tale.
As expected, The Oath in Felghana shines in the gameplay department. Those who have played Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim will easily recognize similarities. Adol hacks and slashes a bloody swath through countless monsters, always with speed and precision. Oath, however, introduces a new ‘combo meter’ which serves as an experience multiplier; for each successful hit, the meter rises and an experience bonus is granted. This bonus can climb as high as 1.99x the original experience granted from defeating an enemy, resulting in nearly double experience. If the chain breaks, however, the bonus is reset to 1.00x. Interestingly, Adol is no longer able to use/stock healing items; rather, enemies drop them in battle and provide instant recovery. In addition to healing items, enemies also drop Strength, Defense, and Magic Potions which provide temporary enhancements to the respective traits. Similar to the combo meter, these have a timer attached, so defeating enemies quickly is the key to maximizing their benefits. Adol also has a “Boost” feature at his disposal; after having dispatched a certain number of enemies, he will be granted the ability to Boost, which provides a temporary increase in attack speed. As you can see, speed and accuracy are the keys to success.
Aside from combat, Wanderers From Ys’ equipment system has been subject to revisions as well. The infamous ‘Five Magic Rings’ have been replaced with ‘Three Magic Bracelets.’ Each bracelet grants an elemental power, one of Fire, Wind, or Earth. In addition to being useful in battle, utilizing the power of these bracelets becomes simply indispensable when searching for many of the game’s secrets. The Fire Bracelet allows our hero to light torches and melt ice. The Wind Bracelet allows him to whirlwind over large gaps, and otherwise impossible jumps. The Earth Bracelet allows him to break walls and other natural barriers. You can also switch between these abilities on the fly; it becomes an essential element of success in many of the game’s more challenging boss battles. Aside from bracelets, Adol is also able to purchase new swords, armors, and shields. These can be statistically enhanced by delivering them to Adonis, the town blacksmith, who will customize them using rare crystals known as Ravals. Early in the game, Ravals are fairly hard to come by, but enemies drop them semi-frequently in the last two dungeons.
But, does it have replay value? Tons of it. How about two unlockable difficulty modes, Hard and Nightmare? How about Boss Rush? Those who have completed Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim will be quite familiar with this time attack mode, which allows the player to consecutively battle against all of the game’s bosses. And how about the countless side quests and hidden items, such as the War God’s Talisman and the Augite Brooch? There’s always something to do, especially for completionists, who will be hard-pressed to unearth every secret on their first time through.
Finally, in case it wasn’t obvious: Sound – 100%. That’s right, absolute perfection. Ys: The Oath in Felghana has, quite possibly, the most amazing soundtrack in the history of video games. Ryo Yonemitsu and Soundteam JDK have really outdone themselves this time. There are no audio issues or ‘filler tracks’ to speak of. They’ve managed to take an already superb soundtrack and make it even more awesome. Each track, exceptionally remixed from the original compositions in Wanderers From Ys, simply rocks. In particular, “Be Careful” (Tigray Quarry) and “Valestine Castle” stand out among the crowd. In true Soundteam JDK fashion, both are exceptionally heavy on the electric guitars and more-than-competently weave in the perfect amount of synth. Speaking directly to fellow fans of their music, I never would have thought that any version of Valestine Castle could overcome/surpass JDK Band 1… I was sorely mistaken. In fact, it’s difficult for me to navigate through the castle at times; when the solo at 2:02 kicks in, I can’t seem to avoid setting the controller down, closing my eyes, and allowing myself to become entranced by the music. It’s that good.
Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a remarkable remake which never cuts corners. It’s the best remake ever produced. It’s (debatably) the best installment of the Ys Series ever produced. And it receives my absolute highest recommendation.